Engine fumes blamed for Seaplane’s fatal crash
THE Sydney Seaplane pilot who crashed in the Hawkesbury River in an horrific accident that claimed six lives on New Year's Eve 2017 became incapacitated when carbon monoxide flooded into the aircraft cabin as a result of screws not being replaced in the engine bay, it has been revealed.
Gareth Morgan, 44, is believed to have been gassed as a result of exhaust emissions flooding into the passenger cabin causing him to lose control of the aircraft in the Jerusalem Bay scenic area of the river.
He died in the crash alongside five UK passengers
It is understood maintenance organisation Airag had certified the doomed piston-driven aircraft to fly on 31 December 2017.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) leading the investigation into the tragedy, which happened shortly after the de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver they were travelling in took off from Cottage Point, revealed exhaust fumes flooded the passenger area causing the doomed Beaver to nose dive into the water.
"The ATSB found pre‑existing cracking of the engine exhaust collector-ring, which could lead to exhaust leakage into the engine bay," an ATSB statement released this morning said.
"The ATSB further found a breach in the firewall from missing bolts used to secure magneto access panels in the firewall under the instrument panel in the cabin.
"Any breach in the firewall can allow the ingress of gases from the engine bay into the cabin," a spokesman said.
British millionaire Richard Cousins, 58, died alongside his partner Emma Bowden, 48, his two sons, Will and Edward, aged 25 and 23 respectively, and Ms Bowden's daughter, Heather, 11.
The results of tests provided to the ATSB in March revealed the pilot and two of the passengers had elevated levels of carbon monoxide in their blood and died of fatal injuries sustained as a result of the impact.
The national transport safety investigator today issued two safety notices as part of its ongoing investigation into the crash.
"During the draft review process for the investigation's final report, the aviation medical specialist engaged by the ATSB recommended that carbon monoxide toxicology testing be undertaken on blood samples of the aircraft occupants," ATSB Chief Commissioner Greg Hood said.
"From consultation with medical experts, and research into the effects of carbon monoxide on aircraft operations, the ATSB considers the levels of carbon monoxide were likely to have adversely affected the pilot's ability to control the aircraft," Mr Hood said.
"Having discounted other potential sources of carbon monoxide exposure, the ATSB considers it likely the pilot and passengers were exposed to carbon monoxide inside the aircraft cabin," Mr Hood said.
Sydney Seaplanes welcomes the findings with MD Aaron Shaw, saying: "Our sympathy, as always, remains with the families of those that perished, and we can only hope, that finally understanding what happened in the accident goes some small way to helping them deal with their loss and provide some closure.
"We are pleased that both Sydney Seaplanes' and our experienced pilot Gareth's reputations as among the best in the business remains intact. "Gareth was an excellent and professional pilot as well as a highly respected colleague and man. We continue to miss him greatly.
"Sydney Seaplanes has always been committed to both meeting and exceeding legislated aviation maintenance and flight safety requirements, to the extent that our Beaver aircraft undergo a complete rebuild every three years.
"The engine in the aircraft involved in the accident in December 2017 was newly overhauled and sourced from one of the world's leading suppliers in the USA. The engine had only accumulated only 90 hours flight time."
The ATSB is still interviewing witnesses, examining recorded data from the on-board electronics and air traffic control logs as well as poring over the plane's maintenance records.
The wreckage of the doomed seaplane was recovered from 13m of water in the days after the tragedy.
Originally published as Engine fumes blamed for Sydney Seaplane's fatal crash